Following on from its closure last year, the beloved cultural institution that is Langan’s Brasserie has been resurrected, complete with a sensitive redesign, basement private dining room and invitation-only upstairs bar, where the well-heeled regulars will come to let their hair down. With its grand brasserie-style food still firmly on the menu and lashings of Italian marble in the showpiece dining room, the restaurant’s 70s and 80s heyday has been reimagined for a new generation. For reassuringly decadent dishes and Mayfair glamour in spades, Langan’s is our London restaurant of the week.
Mention Langan’s Brasserie to any longtime Londoner and tales of its late owner Peter Langan’s formidable boozing will surely follow. Like the time he climbed onto Princess Margaret’s table only to fall asleep there; and the time he turned Marlon Brando away for being too fat; that time he extinguished a kitchen fire with Krug (his favourite tipple). As his old business partner, actor Michael Caine, remarked: “We could never bar anyone from Langan’s because we’d have to start with Peter.” Nevertheless, the jet set – Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, Jack Nicholson and co – adored it.
Forty five years since it first opened and one year since it fell victim to the pandemic, Langan’s is back. As are its former regulars: there were reportedly some 10,000 reservations taken for the first two weeks.
Its new owners, ex-Birley Group Ops Manager Graziano Arricale and restaurateur James Hitchen have given the old place more than a lick of paint. A glamorous makeover by designer Peter Mikic sees the dining room filled with plump velvet chairs, swirly polished marble and green Venini glass chandeliers, and its walls again lined with paintings (Yinka Shonibare, Martin Creed and Cecily Brown are among those represented). The buzz in the room is immense. The old guard are out in force at lunchtime – traditionally attired gentlemen, expensive blondes, and assorted fame-adjacent somebodies – and it’s a hive of activity. I note that Arricale and Hitchen have reintroduced the old-fashioned ‘brigade’ system front of house, with a head waiter, sommelier, chef de rang and commis for every section. The effect is charmingly, reassuringly old school.
The food was never the point at Langan’s and that may well remain the case. My memories from the early-noughties may be rose-tinted, but I recall the signature spinach soufflé being less refined but more robustly, enjoyably ‘spinachy’ than the reboot. Ex-Annabel’s chef Julien Jouhannaud will doubtless establish his own signatures; the chicken liver parfait (excellent) and luxurious £65 fish pie for two with scallops, lobster and prawns are front-runners. The menu is tailored to rich Mayfair tastes, by which I mean not only the severe prices (the £37 bangers and mash are, admittedly, swanked up with truffle and foie gras) but also the sheer decadence of the dishes, clearly designed for claret-quaffing chaps who don’t have to go back to the office after lunch. My table of lunching ladies choose light-ish options of crab on toast, some spectacularly OTT crudités and slim fingers of truffled croque-monsieur ahead of the rich-list fish pie and a thick crumbed boneless veal rack ‘viennoise’ at £49 (a leaner, cheaper schnitzel would perhaps be treading on the Wolseley’s toes?).
If it’s exciting to be back at Langan’s, even more thrilling is the launch of the new invitation-only lounge upstairs with DJ decks, 3am license and glossy Studio 54 good looks. This is where the new generation of Langan’s regulars will go to get up to no good: behind closed doors. How times have changed.